Making boat fishing rigs

Posted on Jan 1 2006 - 9:45pm by WSF
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Rigs for boat fishing tend to be more specialised than shore rigs targeting specific species. This feature looks at six different types that will the cover the majority of options for you, including wreck fishing rigs, traces for major predators like tope, and basic uptide and downtide rigs.


For single hook length uptide rigs and two or three hook rigs constructed for targeting general bottom feeding species like whiting, dabs, dogs and codling, stick with 50lb mono for the main rig body line. This will retain some strength for casting and also guard against abrasions at seabed level.

Rigs made for fishing over very rough ground, or over wrecks need to be stronger. Choose a rig body line strength of 60-75lbs. Some anglers use 100lbs, but this gets too stiff, loses neatness, and gets bulky in the water catching more tide etc.

Makes to consider are Maxima Marine Green, Maxima Chameleon, Gantel and Siglon in the 50lb strains, but for heavier rigs a total quality line is not such a great advantage, so look at Shakespeare Super Jet, or Daiwa’s Sensor etc.

Stay with rolling swivels from Berkeley or Mustad. Size 10′s rated at 40lbs for smaller species, or 8′s standing a direct pull of 60lbs work nicely for connecting standard hook lengths, but the main connector swivel between rig and reel line needs to be a size 6 rated at 80lbs.

Most anglers making wreck or reef rigs with the heavier line prefer to use the larger size 4 rolling swivel with a rating of 110lbs, but do away with swivels to connect hook traces and prefer to tie in hook lengths using blood loop knots which will be explained later.

For tope traces, or when targeting big blonde rays, huss or big cod with bottom baits, size 6 rolling swivels are plenty strong enough, even when holding a tope in the water at the side of the boat, if need be.

The Mustad 77501 rolling swivel is a nickel finished swivel, but Mustad also do the 77500 which is a black finish. The black swivel is mainly used when trolling big lures to eliminate flash reflection that can cause fish to hit the swivel mistaking it for a small bait fish. The black finish can wear off, but this makes little difference, if any, in British waters.

These are the best choice for connecting the weight to the rig on uptide rigs, some wreck fishing rigs and most downtide rigs.

Mustad’s nickel oval split ring no 9944A is the normal choice in size 3/0. If you want a lead to simply slide on the main line or along the rigs body, use a size 8 or 6 rolling swivel and add a split ring to one end to take the weight. This is stronger than using standard snap links and just as quick a method to change leads over.

Split rings, being relatively cheap, can also be used to connect pirks to wreck rigs and even the rig itself to the main line.

For trapping swivels on uptide and normal downtide rigs, there is no need to revert from the standard 2.5mm beads when trapping the smaller size 10 and 8 swivels.

It’s worth carrying larger 5mm beads though, that can be used as a buffer bead between a linking swivel and main hook trace when you want the lead to slide freely along the reel line. I now prefer the softer rubber flexi-beads used by carp anglers for helicopter rigs etc, than the hard coloured beads normally sold for sea fishing. The rubber bead can be pushed over the eye of small connecting swivels and helps avoid any potential abrasion on the knot and line.

The bigger hard nylon and plastic beads are the ones to choose in multi colours for constructing the end tackle on baited spoon rigs for plaice.

The black copper crimps sold for shore rigs are ideal for holding beads and swivels in place on three hook whiting rigs and uptide cod rigs. Those rated for wire between 7 and 10kgs fit 50-60lb mono well.

The same type of black copper crimp, but in the bigger 15-20kgs size will actually take the diameter of 60lb nylon covered wire used for tope traces through it’s middle three times allowing the loose tag end to pass back inside the crimp for extra security.

In both cases the crimps should be fixed using a proper crimping tool. When crimping onto mono line aim to just slightly close the middle of the crimp so that it just begins to compress the line underneath. This is enough to hold the crimp firmly, but does not weaken the line to any degree. Don’t be tempted to crimp along the full length of the crimp. This flattens and weakens the line underneath and is not necessary.

When crimping wire, then it is best to crimp along the full length, just leaving the very edges of the crimp ends slightly open to guard against abrasion as the wire flexes.

The correct way to crimp wire is to pass the free end of wire through the crimp, then bend it over passing it back through the inner crimp a second time to form the loop, and once more bend the tag end back on itself and almost through the full length of the inner crimp a third time, then crimp the crimp tightly shut. This creates a streamlined crimp with the tag end hidden. Leave the tag end free and it can cause wounds to the hands when handling fish via the trace.

The only alternative to crimps for boat fishing is to trap the beads and swivel with telephone wire coiled tightly around the rig body line either side of the beads. This is a useful dodge when you may wish to fish a boom, but need it to be positioned close to the lead when the tide is running hard, say when targeting bream, or lift the boom and hook trace well off the seabed as the tides eases such as when after whiting.

The softer makes of mono such as Maxima Chameleon, Sylcast or Amnesia are suitable for the smaller expected species in breaking strains from 15 to 25lbs. Use 10lbs for plaice rigs, 15lb for dabs, bream, gurnards etc, but step up to 20-25lbs for whiting, codling and dogfish. The same makes in 30 to 50lb (where applicable) should be used for cod, rays, huss, etc.

For wreck and reef fishing use 50lb hook lengths, though with double figure ling which have real teeth consider upping to 75lbs. Maxima Marine Green and Shakespeare Super Jet have quite hard surfaces which take surface abrasions in their stride.

For conger, then go heavier still. Reef conger hook trace line needs be no more than 100lb breaking strain, but for wreck fishing, then pick 250lb commercial mono to avoid the eel biting through the trace, to give some security against the wreck itself, and to stop the eels sensitive mouth noticing something is amiss.

Many anglers exaggerate the strength of wire needed for tope fishing. A strain of 50lbs is enough to land any tope living. The wire is there not for it’s strength, but to stop the tope biting through the trace. Some anglers use heavy 200lb mono, but I’ve seen some tope bite through this and will not use it.

When fishing lures such as Redgill eels and the like in clearish water, pick a hook length line that is clear and not coloured. It has been proved that lures fished with coloured hook lengths definitely catch fewer fish than those fished on clear lines.

The same small Avis booms used for shore fishing are useful for bream and whiting rigs and will handle much bigger fish should they need to. These are used to replace the normal hook trace swivels, but are positioned the same way using beads and crimps.

The zip slider boom and a similar sliding boom made by Knotless Fishing Tackle are an alternative to the sliding swivel on the reel line when you need a lead free to slide along the reel line. These are complete with a snap clip to take the weight. Better still are ledger beads with a split ring added.

For ledger fishing with baits, there are many types of similar plastic boom available designed to keep the bait away from the reel line as the bait descends to eliminate tangles. These slide freely on the reel line and butt up against a bead and tied in swivel attached to the hook trace. They have a clip type weight connector built in to their base. Eddystone, Delta, Ashpole and the Knotless Maxi Boom are all good ones to compare others by.

The relatively new Ziplock boom is excellent for drift fishing. It can be positioned as far up the main line or leader as you like to give a longer than normal trace length. Once in position, you wind the line around the boom’s stem, then it has a rubber gripping pad with a slot in at the end that the line is secured inside. This holds the line fast until a fish takes the bait which pulls the line from the grip pad and the booms slides gently back down the line to the trace swivel which should be positioned between 3 and 6ft from the hook.

For fishing wrecks with artificial eels, the best booms are made from stainless steel in 18 gauge. These are called French booms and range in size from 8ins to 16ins. The short 8-10in ones are okay for standard ledgering, but for use with eels use only the longer 14in plus ones to keep the eel well away from the reel line on the descent.

Connecting knot designs don’t need changing for boat rigs. You can use the tucked half blood knot for both hook traces and swivel connections, but this gets more difficult to tie as the breaking strain of the line increases.

The best knot for all boat rigs for both connecting swivels and hook traces is the uni knot as per diagram A.

When wreck fishing and tackle losses are likely to be high, do away with swivels etc, and use the blood loop tied into the rig body line. You can either tie a muppet type lure direct to a long loop, but the better way is to cut one end of the loop as it leaves the knot to create a single hook length and tie the lure or hook to this. Make sure that you use a minimum of 8 turns around the line before pulling the loop through.

A cheap but tough rig to main line connector for wreck and pirk fishing can be made from 18 gauge stainless steel wire. Cut off about 3ins and then form an eye in each end with a pair of long nosed pliers. Make sure that the wire eye is fully closed.

You’ll snag the lead weight often when fishing over rough ground and on wrecks, but if you tie rigs with a small loop at the base and tie in a short length of weak 15lb line to attach the weight to, then this will break saving the rig when the lead gets caught.

Instead of using line as a weak link, try a paper clip. These pull open easily, but are strong enough for holding the weight whilst dropping, fishing and retrieving.